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Program Description

Overview The Woodrock Youth Development Project (YDP) is a coherent program of intervention strategies and support systems that aim to reduce alcohol, tobacco, and other drug (ATOD) use among adolescents by improving youths' problem-solving and coping skills, raising awareness about the dangers of substance abuse, and improving self-perception through increasing academic achievement and fostering cultural pride. The YDP aims to prevent substance abuse by combining three major substance-abuse-prevention strategies: (1) psychosocial family and community supports, (2) human-relations and skills-building workshops, and (3) drug-resistance training. This approach is based on the Problem Behavior Theory of Jessor and Jessor and Evan's Social Inoculation Theory.¹ These theories posit that drug-prevention programs must help youth develop general life skills, self-esteem, and social competency while simultaneously promoting a strong anti-drug message. The two theories are the basis of the YDP model for youth living in an extremely impoverished, multiracial urban community in Philadelphia where drug trafficking and consumption are prevalent.

¹ Jessor, R., & Jessor, S. L. (1977). Problem behavior and psychosocial development. New York: Academic Press.
Start Date 1991
Scope local
Type after school, weekend, comprehensive services, mentoring
Location urban
Setting public school
Participants elementary through middle school students
Number of Sites/Grantees four public schools in the Kensington area of Philadelphia
Number Served approximately 160 youth in 1999 and approximately 300 youth in 2003
Components The YDP components were designed in accordance with the theoretical approaches of social inoculation and life skills development. The program seeks to develop life skills and drug-use resistance through the following components: (1) direct education via human-relations and life-skills seminars, (2) a system of psychosocial supports including peer mentoring, (3) a program of structured extracurricular activities, and (4) family and community supports including counseling and outreach.

At the core of the school-based programming are weekly human-relations classes. Each class is conducted by a team of two youth advocates, paired to represent differing racial, ethnic, and gender backgrounds. Classroom activities focus on raising awareness about the dangers of ATOD use, promoting healthy attitudes about ATOD use, fostering self-esteem through enhancing images of racial membership groups, and developing an appreciation of other ethnic and cultural traditions. Attendance at these classes is mandatory for program participants. The curriculum is highly structured in the sense that the topic progression and specific activities are planned, but at the same time, periods for open discussion and role-playing exercises allow the material to be tailored to the concerns and developmental needs of particular class audiences. The youth advocates also provide individual academic and informal psychosocial counseling. They set individualized academic goals with students and monitor each student's monthly progress. YDP participants who require more intensive psychological counseling services are referred to other agencies.

The second major component is the peer-mentoring program. Ten peer mentors—high school students from area schools—monitor the progress of individual YDP participants and serve as positive role models. The primary function of the peer mentors is to provide tutoring and homework help to individual students after school, Monday through Thursday, throughout the school year. Peer mentors also actively engage youth in individualized projects that develop their talents and critical-thinking skills.

The third component consists of a number of extracurricular activities. These activities are largely voluntary and their aim is to improve academic performance, to provide creative outlets to the students, to widen students' horizons by providing novel experiences and opportunities to learn about other people and environments, and to provide a space for students to develop positive interpersonal relations in a less structured and nonthreatening out-of-school setting. One of these extracurricular activities is the students' weekly participation in a wide range of after school clubs. The clubs reflect the interests of the youth advocates and the students themselves and provide an opportunity for informal interaction with the peer mentors and youth advocates and with other YDP participants from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. Students also attend weekend retreats at Woodrock's training center, which is located in a rural, wilderness environment. Staff, parents, and other volunteers from the Woodrock community are encouraged to attend these retreats and to participate with students in structured workshops that reinforce the material from the human-relations classes. Students also engage in a range of outdoor group activities, which are intended to build interpersonal trust, a sense of self-efficacy, and positive self-esteem.

A fourth component is to help build broad support systems for the social groups that are influential in mediating the development of the individual student: their schools, families, and communities. In terms of school support, Woodrock youth advocates meet regularly with the students' teachers to help them monitor students' progress and develop challenging, yet realistic academic goals commensurate with students' individual abilities and needs. Woodrock staff also work as arbitrators between the school and parents in cases of school suspensions or disciplinary transfer hearings. In terms of family support, Woodrock staff conduct frequent home visits throughout the year, building communication and establishing parental trust in the program, ensuring parental involvement in the program, referring parents to other agencies as needed, and offering monthly parenting classes. In terms of community support, Woodrock is a founding member agency of the United Neighbors Against Drugs (UNAD). This neighborhood collaboration provides youth with drug-free adult role models from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, united toward the goal of a drug-free Kensington.
Funding Level approximately $500,000 per year
Funding Sources Center for Substance Abuse Prevention at the United States Department of Health and Human Services, United Way, Pew Charitable Trusts


Overview Evaluators examined program outcomes for the 1995 school year in an interim report. The two-year evaluation report extends these findings to examine program outcomes for both the 1995 school year and for the following school year (1996). Both reports used a randomized pretest-posttest control group design.
Evaluator Leonard LoSciuto, Mark A. Freeman, Evan Harrington, Brian Altman, Susan M. Hilbert, M. Margaretta Fox, and Lorraine Porcellini, Temple University

Alden Lanphear, Woodrock, Inc.
Evaluations Profiled A Two-Year Evaluation of the Woodrock Youth Development Project
Evaluations Planned none
Report Availability LoSciuto, L., Freeman, M. A., Harrington, E., Altman, B., & Lanphear, A. (1997). An outcome evaluation of the Woodrock Youth Development Project. Journal of Early Adolescence, 17(1), 51–66.

LoSciuto, L., Hilbert, S. M., Fox, M. M., Porcellini, L., & Lanphear, A. (1999). A two-year evaluation of the Woodrock Youth Development Project. Journal of Early Adolescence, 19(4), 488–507.


Evaluation Leonard LoSciuto, Ph.D.
Institute for Survey Research
Temple University
1601 N. Broad St.
Philadelphia, PA 19122
Tel: 215-204-8355
Fax: 215-204-3797
Program Tony Fisher
Director of Program and Resource Development

Peter Yeemans
Program Director

1229 Chestnut St., Ste. M7
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Tel: 215-231-9810
Fax: 215-231-9815
Profile Updated June 13, 2003

Evaluation: A Two-Year Evaluation of the Woodrock Youth Development Project

Evaluation Description

Evaluation Purpose To evaluate the extent to which YDP succeeds in affecting positive changes in the middle school youth in each of the following interrelated areas: (a) reducing the incidence of drug abuse among middle school youth; (b) raising awareness about the dangers of alcohol, tobacco, and other drug (ATOD) use; (c) promoting healthy attitudes regarding resistance to ATOD use; (d) improving the quality of race relations; and (e) improving students' self-esteem.
Evaluation Design Experimental: Within four Philadelphia schools, classrooms were assigned randomly to either an experimental (participates in YDP) or control (does not participate) condition. Changes in the mean scores on each of the six outcome measures for the control and experimental groups were analyzed using analysis of covariance (ANCOVA), controlling for preexisting differences in pretest scores. Two cohorts participated in the YDP, one during the 1995 academic year and one during the 1996 academic year. Final sample sizes for the 1995 cohort were: experimental group = 130, control group = 239 (total n=369). Final sample sizes for the 1996 cohort were: experimental group = 114, control group = 235 (total n=349). Little difference was found between the two cohorts in terms of age, race, gender, or school attendance, so the two cohorts were combined to enhance the analysis' statistical power.

Of those who completed both pretest and posttest, 50% were female (50% male). In addition, 45% self-identified as Latino, 18.9% as white, 12.4% as African American, 10.2% as Asian, 2.2% as American Indian, and 11.3% as other/multiethnic. Ages ranged from 6 to 14 years, with a mean age of 10.18 (SD=1.73). Participants were distributed approximately equally among the four schools, and the two groups (experimental and control) had approximately equal mean scores on all pretest measures, including substance use measures. The attrition rates for the experimental and control groups for the combined sample were 12.38% and 13.17%, respectively, a difference which was not statistically significant. In addition, those who completed both pretest and posttest (completers) did not differ significantly from those who completed only the pretest (non-completers) on gender or school attendance. Non-completers were significantly more likely to be African American or white than other racial/ethnic groups, and older students were significantly more likely to be non-completers. Self-esteem was higher at pretest for non-completers.
Data Collection Methods Surveys/Questionnaires: Questionnaires assessing each of the six outcome variables, as well as basic demographic characteristics, were administered at the beginning (pretest) and the end of the school year (posttest). The two questionnaires were identical in each cohort year, with the exception of an additional scale in the 1996 instrument, a measure of aggressive attitudes and behavior. More specifically, the questionnaires measured: (a) self-esteem, (b) race relations and ethnocentrism, (c) knowledge of the harmful effects of ATOD use, (d) attitudes about the use of alcohol and other drugs, (e) aggression, (f) self-reported school attendance, (g) ATOD use in lifetime, and (h) ATOD use in the last month.

Tests/Assessments: Youth were administered a number of assessments, including the Harter Self-Perception Profile for Children (Harter, 1985), Knowledge of ATOD Use and Attitudes Toward ATOD Use (adapted from Caplan, Jacoby, Weissberg & Grady, 1988 and Caplan, Weissberg, Grober & Sivo, 1992), Frequency of ATOD Use (Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, 1993), and original scales created for the evaluation for race relations, ethnocentrism, and aggression.

Caplan, M., Jacoby, C., Weissberg, R. P., & Grady, K. (1988). The Positive Youth Development program: A substance use prevention program for young adolescents. Unpublished manuscript, Department of Psychiatry, Yale University.

Caplan, M., Weissberg, R. P., Grober, J. S., & Sivo, P. J. (1992). Social competence promotion with inner-city and suburban young adolescents: Effects on social adjustment and alcohol use. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 60, 56–63.

Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, Department of Health and Human Services. (1993). Proposed instruments for CSAP HRY domain matrix. Washington, DC: Author.

Harter, S. (1985). Manual for the self-perception profile for children. Denver, CO: University of Denver Press.
Data Collection Timeframe Data were collected during the fall of 1994, the spring of 1995, the fall of 1995, and the spring of 1996.

Formative/Process Findings

Program Context/Infrastructure The Kensington community historically has been characterized by a high incidence of hate crimes and ethnic conflict. According to the evaluators, the demographic shift of minorities into historically white neighborhoods, coupled with the migration of blue-collar industries from this area, have served to increase racial tension and violence.

Police estimate that 70% of all narcotics sold in the Philadelphia area move through the Kensington community, which produces more than 40% of the city's drug arrests.

Estimates of the percentage of families in Kensington that can be labeled low-income range from 89.5% through 97.0%, and the white community served by Woodrock has the lowest income level of any white area in Philadelphia.

Many children in Kensington live in single-parent homes or are being raised by extended family members.

According to the evaluators, Kensington schools are undermined by racial tensions and are severely underfunded.

Only 15% of all students who attend the schools targeted in this study score above the national average in reading norms.

More than 60% of all students who attend the schools included in the study are on public assistance and welfare support.

Summative/Outcome Findings

Academic YDP participants improved on the order of .22 standard deviations on self-reported student attendance as compared to the control group (p<.01).
Prevention YDP participants improved on the order of .19 standard deviations as compared to the control group for drug use in lifetime (p=.01). YDP participants also improved on the order of .18 standard deviations as compared to the control group for drug use in the last month (p=.02).
Youth Development YDP participants improved on the order of .22 standard deviations as compared to the control group on measures of race relations and ethnocentrism (p<.01).

YDP participants had higher prosocial scores on measures of self-esteem, an improvement on the order of .13 standard deviations, although this improvement failed to reach statistical significance at the .05 level (p=.08).

For the measure of aggression, used in year two only, YDP participants had higher prosocial scores than control group youth, although this finding failed to reach statistical significance at the .05 level (improvement on the order of .19 standard deviations, p=.09).

There were no significant differences between the two groups in terms of attitudes toward ATOD.


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Published by Harvard Family Research Project